Who’s Shopping Forged Documents to the Washington Press Corps?

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On May 9, Reality Winner, an NSA contract worker, downloaded a file that outlined details of Russian hacking efforts just before the 2016 election. On June 5, the Intercept published her file.

But something interesting happened between May and June: someone used the Winner document as the basis to create a forgery of a different top-secret document that named a specific Trump aide who had colluded with Russia. This forgery was apparently shopped around to journalists, including Rachel Maddow, who described what happened on her show last night.

So…who had access to the Winner file before it was published? Who’s peddling this stuff? Was it from a Trump opponent who meant it to be taken seriously but didn’t quite do the job well enough? Was it from a Trump supporter who hoped someone in the mainstream media would publish it and then look like a fool? Was it from someone in the intelligence community who wanted to sow seeds of doubt in news organizations that receive stolen documents? Good question! As Maddow mentioned, two other news organizations have had to retract stories recently based on problems with “sourcing.” This might be part of a concerted effort to discredit the media looking into the Trump-Russia connection.

I will say one thing, though: Maddow compared this to the fake documents that CBS published about George Bush’s National Guard service. That’s a dead end. We have a pretty good idea of where those came from, and it wasn’t some part of the deep state. It was just an idiot with a grudge against Bush.

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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